REVIEW: Cliffhanger (1993, Renny Harlin / Sylvester Stallone)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

  • Original Release: 1993
  • Director: Renny Harlin
  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner, Lex Linn
  • Running Time: 112min
  • Format: Blu-Ray
  • Budget: $65,000,000
  • Gross: $255,000,000
  • Buy Cliffhanger from

If i remember correct, critics didn't really praise too much this film when it came out. When I first saw it as a kid I loved it. Cliffhanger starts with two buddies, Gabe Walker (Stallone) and Hal Tucker (Rooker) climbing on unknown snowy mountains very high on the top. They do climbing rocks as hobby. Hal has his wife with on her first such high mountain climbing trip.

While a helicopter comes to pick them all up from a mountain top and they are using sort of rope and tackle to proceed to helicopter, Hal's wife's equipment breaks up and she's left hanging in mid-air. Gabe tries to save her and catches her hand at the last moment, but fails to hold on. Hal's wife takes a freefall long way down into her death.

Hal blames this on Gabe, and their friendship breaks loose. Gabe changes work and stops rock climbing while Hal remains working on a mountain rescue team. Destiny brings these "friends" back together though. It's not that much later, when a crook called Eric Qualen (Lithgow) and his mercenaries try to hijack and rob money delivery done by aeroplane with an aeroplane - which in other words means mid-air plane-heist. This wicked session takes place on airspace above the very same mountains where Hal's rescue team works at.

Needless to say operation like this can only fail. While trying this crazy stunt, they encounter that the plain to be hijacked has a federal agent within who is not about to give up so easily. Crooks are able to get rid of the guy, but the cases which contain money get loose while transfering them from plane to another and fall somewhere down the mountain range.

The robbers take a rough emergency land on area nearby. Every case fallen out has a transmitter, which can be located. Only thing they now need is a chopper to reach the cases and get out. That's when they're gonna call mountain range rescue team - Hal. Jessie, who's Gabe's ex, get's concerned by sending Hal alone in such bad weather for a rescue mission so she asks Gabe to go after him for help. Eventually both Gabe and Hal find out that they've been asked there for just to help retrieving the money cases that dropped down the mountains.

(Mercenaries and their hostages)

And that's pretty much the very beginning of the movie. This is where the action takes it's pace. While retrieving the first money case, Gabe flees and Hal remains as a hostage. This movie is pretty much straight forward cat and mouse between Gabe and Qualen's staff, while Gabe flees but similarly tries to reach the money cases first and sabotage Qualen's chances to retrieve the money.

Snowy mountain ranges are quite beautiful as a landscape. Stallone does good work while he may not be in one of his toughest roles. He's pretty much every-day's average Jack at the beginning, but learns a trick or two when the action sequence begins. He's pretty much taking the beating most of the time from Qualen's mercenaries but always seems to find a sharp ice pick or to drop bad guys over the edge down the mountains. It's like Rocky taking up beating, but eventually finding his strength at the very end and then finishing up -- like "I've had enough!".

(One of the Qualen's crooks pointing gun at Gabe)

Cliffhanger isn't really anything groundbreaking. It's pretty standard good action flick with fine pace, nice landscape and some decently good one-liners. How about:

"Qualen: I must say, you're a real piece of work.
Gabe: I must say, you're a real piece of shit."

"Qualen: You want to kill me, don't you, Tucker? Well, get a number and get in line. "

Cliffhanger doesn't specifically scare, raise emotions, or shock -- but it's entertaining action movie for sure. Stallone is.. well, regular Stallone. And seeing him toy around with Qualen and his staff bit like Bruce Willis in Die Hard versus the bad guys is always fun. Though comedy doesn't bite just quite as hard. There are three of four decently good fighting scenes, and hatred between Gabe, Hal, Qualen and his mercs is pretty hilarious. Cliffhanger may lack some really memorable scenes and surprises though, and it doesn't build up story or characters very deep way. Death of the rescue team pilot "Frank" (R.Waite), who was tricked to the mountains also like Gabe and Hal, was really only "sad" scene and even it was bit hilarious with Hal screaming "Fraaaank Fraaank nooo!" overly acting, while Frank is shot in slow motion. Lithgow is ok, but isn't perfect for the role of total evil. As positive thing, his acting comes out quite comedic, as the tone of the movie isn't too serious anyways.

(Gabe vs. Qualen)

This movie's a bit like what Red Heat is for Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's pretty good, but doesn't quite reach the "great"-factor. And it's not the most fast paced and furious action movie Sly Stallone has done either. The beginning is almost like sad family movie, but luckily the movie speeds up the pace soon enough really never slowing down again. It's bit like on-off setting. Blu-Ray had average quality, not really standing out that much but definetely still improvement over DVD. Recommended for any Stallone fan or any regular action-fan who hasn't seen this one before. I think it manages not to fall in B-Class action movie category though, it's just tad good enough to raise above..

The Good

  • Decent one-liners
  • Stallone bullying to his chasers
  • Snowy mountains setting
  • Fine pace after slow start

The Bad

  • Lithgow is just average for the role
  • Stand-out moments lacking a bit
  • Not very deeply built up character backgrounds
  • Bit "static"

No comments:

Post a Comment